I have a mostly completed hull for a 23 foot cat and great hopes for the design. But unfortunately, I have another idea that seems to me to be a more generally useful idea, and it’s the kind of thing you can’t stop thinking about.
If you click on the tiny fuzzy image above, a better image of what I can’t stop thinking about will appear.
Nancy and I took Slider out this afternoon, and we sailed over to Destin on a perfect October day. Winds were light at first, and we tacked slowly across the bay, maybe touching three knots occasionally. The winds freshened a bit as we came back along the island, so we made it back to Fort Walton pretty fast. We decided to extend our sail a little and sailed under Brooks Bridge into Santa Rosa Sound.
This turned out to be tricky sailing, because we were in the lee of two rows of gigantic condos, which blanket the beach until you reach Air Force land. The seabreeze really swirls through the canyons between them. The wind was clocking around every few feet, sometimes heading us a bit, sometimes giving us a broad reach. We meandered up the Intracoastal, which on this Monday afternoon was practically deserted. We didn’t see a single barge the whole day.
Going home, we were able to close reach back to the bridge, where the only tense moment occurred. The tide was running against us in the narrow Sound, and under the bridge we lost the wind completely, as often happens. We’d just about made it out when the wind ceased. We coasted down to a knot or so through the water, and we soon began to lose ground to the end of the bridge bulkhead. These are made of jagged timbers and giant bolts, and can chew a boat up pretty bad if you get up against them when a wake goes through. It’s only in moments like these that I ever really wish for a motor.*
But my gloomy speculations, as the timbers and spikes got closer, were interrupted by my pragmatic wife. She grabbed a paddle and with a couple of mighty heaves shot us out of that wind hole and into a nice fresh breeze that took us swiftly back to the ramp where Slider’s trailer was waiting.
Small boats are a lot of fun, as well as actually attainable for those of us who aren’t wealthy. A Slider can be put together– with a little creative scavenging– for a couple thousand.
Small boats have a lot of other advantages, too. It’s nice to have a boat that can be gotten out of difficulty with a couple of paddle strokes. It’s also nice to have a fast boat, and though Slider shows a surprising turn of speed compared to most open beach cruisers her size, she’s not really multihull fast. She doesn’t have enough sail area to be really fast, because she is all one piece, for ease of launching. As a beach cruiser she needs to be stable and forgiving, and that’s why she has such a conservative rig.
For real multihull speed, a cruising cat needs enough beam to carry a big rig safely. Unfortunately, I’ve reached the sad conclusion that the big new boat is a little too big for the beach cat rig I bought for it– it’s only 220 sq. ft. and I think a bigger rig is needed to take full advantage of the boat’s size and beam.
For a long time I’ve considered a small step up from Slider– a slightly larger boat with greater sailing beam and a fast rig. Super Slider is the child of this thought. At 19 feet and built simply and lightly, she will be driven very well by the beach cat rig. She’ll give me an opportunity to try out my new folding mechanism, and she’ll be the perfect boat for events like the Texas 200 and the Everglades Challenge. Small cabins will offer some protection to the offwatch crew and she’ll have self-draining footwells for seating comfort and hull integrity. She might not be an ocean crosser, but she’d be fine crossing to the Bahamas, in the right weather window.
So when I get back from Detroit– a trip I look forward to with the same anticipation as I look forward to a root canal and a mugging in the dentist’s parking lot afterwards– I’ll get right to work on Super Slider. I’m going to use everything I’ve learned about building cats using stitch and glue to make the job as simple and intuitive as possible.
If Super Slider turns out to be Super, I might even go into the kit boat business– that’s how enthusiastic I am about the design.
*But about that motor… you know what would happen? I’d have to be prudent and always start my motor when approaching a bridge made iffy by wind or current. Pretty soon, I’d be starting it for every bridge, and then for other reasons, and then I might as well be driving a motorboat. Sometimes I might go out and never raise the sails. You may laugh, but I often see sailboats motoring along without a scrap of sail up, even on fine days like today. I’ll bet those guys started out with the best of intentions.
Still, the next boat will probably have a small outboard, because I’d like to take the boat to the Bahamas. When you get a weather window, you should probably zip across the Straits as expeditiously as possible, even if the wind is too light to sail fast.